ANDERSON – T.Y. Hilton generally prefers to let his play do the talking, but he mentioned today how the Indianapolis Colts have three No.1 wide receivers.
Reading between the lines, that means Hilton considers himself a No.1, right alongside Reggie Wayne and new teammate Hakeem Nicks. “Without a doubt,” Hilton said after practice at Anderson University.
Where does his confidence come from?
“All you've got to do is turn on the film and watch me play,” he said.
Hilton assumed the No.1 wide-receiver position last year after Wayne went down with his season-ending knee injury. And, if anything, Hilton looked quicker and faster than ever in breaking free for three receptions in his only series in the Colts' first preseason game last Thursday against the New York Jets.
Hilton caught 82 passes for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns last season, a strong followup to his rookie year of 50 catches for 861 yards and seven scores.
His coaches and teammates expect him to make a similar increase in production and play this season.
“He never ceases to amaze us,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “The guy is just a spectacular athlete. The game has obviously slowed down tremendously for T.Y. He knows this thing inside and out now.”
There's not a play quarterback Andrew Luck can call now that Hilton doesn't understand from a defensive coverage angle, Pagano said.
Hilton agrees, and points to Wayne's injury as the turning point in adding complex understanding of the offense to his obvious raw speed and talent.
“Right now the game is just slowing down for me,” Hilton said. “I know the whole playbook so right now they can put me anywhere and I'm ready to play. That allows me to play fast.”
Wayne's injury put a lot of pressure on Hilton, and a new role as the receiver attracting the most defensive attention.
“I had to pick up and start learning more positions,” Hilton said. “As I learned that, I understood the offense and the spots I needed to be in and Andrew started finding me.”
Wayne's return to health, along with the addition of Nicks and rookie Donte Moncrief, should give the Colts' receiving corps strong depth. That depth, in turn, should prevent teams from putting too much attention on Hilton.
Even when they're focusing on stopping him, it's easier said than done. Just ask the Kansas City Chiefs, who were burned for 13 catches for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The yards were the third-most in playoff history behind Buffalo's Eric Moulds in 1999 and Minnesota's Anthony Carter in 1988.
It's possible Hilton is only scratching the surface of his career, too.
Nicks said he has been impressed in his short time as a Hilton teammate.
“He's got that quick twitch, quick feet,” Nicks said. “We were watching film yesterday and talking about his quick feet, quick twitch and he gets in and out of his breaks real fast, and he can go get the deep ball, too.”
Expectations will continue to rise for Hilton, especially as Wayne enters the homestretch of his career. Wayne proved to be the perfect successor to Marvin Harrison. Hilton might be the next in line.
The Colts' offense seems fairly stacked with Luck, the receivers, tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener and running backs Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw. It's an offense that will be expected to put up a lot of points.
Hilton will be expected to continue to raise his game, too.
“There's no pressure at all,” Hilton said. “This is what we do. This is why they brought us all in here. We're focused and ready to play.”